Afghan human rights groups urged the International Criminal Court on Wednesday to speed up a war crimes probe in their country, as they prepared to meet the tribunal’s chief prosecutor.
“We are hoping that coming all the way here to The Hague we will have a strong message for the court,” said Guissou Jahangiri, International Federation for Human Rights’ deputy president.
ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda stressed the Taliban militia and the affiliated Haqqani network, Afghan government forces and US troops as well as the CIA all appeared to have carried out war crimes since the Islamic militia was ousted in 2001
The group of some 20 Afghan and international activists will also make “collective and individual suggestions,” in Thursday’s talks with ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, Jahangiri told AFP.
During a lengthy initial probe only made public in 2007, the ICC has been looking at possible war crimes dating back to 2003 by the Taliban, Afghan government forces and international forces including US troops.
Bensouda said in November her office was “concluding its assessment” and that a decision on whether to ask the ICC’s judges to open a full-blown probe was “imminent”.
The chief prosecutor added US forces may have committed war crimes in Afghanistan by torturing prisoners in what may have been a deliberate policy.
She stressed the Taliban militia and the affiliated Haqqani network, Afghan government forces and US troops as well as the CIA all appeared to have carried out war crimes since the Islamic militia was ousted by a US-led invasion in 2001.
And she blamed the Taliban and its allies for the deaths of some 17,000 civilians since 2007 to December 2015 in a brutal insurgency with “numerous attacks” on schools, hospitals and mosques.
The activists’ lawyer Katherine Gallagher said they would now “really like to encourage the office of the prosecutor to move forward with this.”
If Bensouda does ask judges to authorise a full-scale inquiry the tribunal would be taking on its most complex and politically controversial investigation to date.
It is unlikely though that any US troops will face prosecution at the court in The Hague as Washington has not ratified the tribunal’s Rome Statute, shielding its nationals from the its reach.
Huma Saeed, another Afghan human rights worker said the ICC’s involvement in Afghanistan “has enormous symbolic importance.”
“To the people of Afghanistan, to the victims in Afghanistan, that means justice matters,” she said.
“It means the international community can not let things go unnoticed,” Saeed said.